Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

?uest for Love

Gail Has No Problem With Blood

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

Make Doug's Winning Mussels

Tom Colicchio Answers Your Restaurant Wars Qs

Gail: It Wasn't Keriann's Day

Make Doug's Winning Braised Pork!

Gail: We Had a Tough Job This Week

Make Katsuji's Authentically Delicious Stuffing

Hugh: The Demise of Cornwallis and Aaron

Make Gregory's Winning Dumplings

Richard: Chefs Please Follow Instructions

Richard Tries Money Ball Soup

Make a Home Run-Worthy Popcorn Crème Brule

Hugh: Where There's a Will There's a Fenway

Gail: Keriann and Aaron Were Being ---holes

Make the Winning Surf and Turf

Gail: We're Taking No Prisoners

Richard Goes From Player to Announcer

Tom Talks Boston

Gail: There Was No Season 11 Underdog

Hugh Wants Nick to Be Kind to Himself

Gail: It Was Difficult to Let Go of Shirley

Big Easy to Ocean Breezy

Gail: The Final Four Are Like Our Children

Emeril Is Proud to Serve Shirley's Dish

Hugh: Enough With the Mexican Food Hate

Gail on Favreau, Choi, and Finding Yourself

Hugh on Poor Boys, Swingers and Food Trucks

Emeril: Nick's Choice Is Part of the Game

Nick's License to Immune

Hugh's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Hugh Decides Eight Is Enough

Gail Talks OvenGate

Dookie Chase Makes Everybody Cry

Fin, Found, Floundering

What Danny Meyer Taught Gail Simmons

'Top Chef' Goes to Hog Heaven

Gris Gris Boucherie Ya Ya

Brian and Travis' Dud Spuds

?uest for Love

Bravotv.com's Senior Editor deems the Jimmy Fallon episode the happiest one yet!

Hello my little Roots. Can we all agree that this was perhaps the happiest episode of Top Chef ever? And it's pretty much all thanks to Jimmy Fallon and his merry band of gentlemen. I can't wait to talk about the Elimination Challenge, but first, there's Quickfire business at hand.

This Quickfire was a throwback to the '70s, where y'know people did drugs, had orgies, and ate fondue! Or, at least the latter. I actually really enjoy fondue. Fondue dishes can be found on a lot of menus, like the choocolate fondue at Dos Caminos, but fondue restaurants aren't quite that common. Perhaps like me, I wasn't quite sure what made all these dishes fondue, as I've only ever had cheese and chocolate types, but according to Wikipedia: "Since the 1950s, the name "fondue" has been generalized to a variety of other dishes where a food is dipped into a hot liquid, including chocolate fondue, where pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture, and fondue bourguignonne, where pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil." The chefs, therefore, offered a wide array of options, which they all got to sample because they were the judges! What a twist! Dale won in the end with his take on pho, and everyone else basically made their conspiracy theories about why they didn't win. Oh well. Unlike the chefs, my main disappointment was that we didn't get to hear Padma say "Don't worry, girls, I've got the fondue!" all Phyllis Nefler-like. If you didn't get that Troop Beverly HIlls reference, you should probably Netflix it immediately.

Moving on to the happiest Elimination Challenge, like, ever. I will admit that when Jimmy took over the Late Night time slot, I had my doubts, but, wow, was I wrong. His show is a breath of fresh air -- he not only has the Roots as his houseband for God's sake, but he's amazIng with his guests because he actually knows what he's talking about in the pop culture world. Now, I found out we'd be taping this episode day of. Since the show is taped in 30 Rock, also home to the Bravo East Coast offices, employees were allowed to attend. I have no idea where I was that day, but I wasn't in the office. I'm never out of the office! Saying I was bummed would be an understatement. I've only been to one taping of Top Chef, and that was on my birthday a couple years ago. I was amped at the thought of going to another one, but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. I take solace in the fact that this was a great episode to watch from my couch, though, and that the audience wasn't served any food, so I didn't miss that much! (I'm so sadistic.) The chefs, stupified, all came out to see that they're on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon! Jimmy has them play Cell Phone Shootout to decide what dish they'll be preparing for the host's birthday lunch. They all choose from a list of very traditional, mostly American cuisine, and get cookin'. How funny was Carla when she chose chicken pot pie? She lost it! Over chicken pot pie! I'm sure I've lost it over even stupider things (like my new Verizon iPhone), so I really can't criticize her for that. Nothing too crazy happens in the kitchen, but, man, would I have loved to have sat at that lunch table. Everyone was adorable and hilarious! I especially loved Jimmy's anecdotes about he and his wife watching the show, pausing it, and saying what they would've cooked (like we do in this blog!), and his mom giving him a recipe from Food & Wine to submit to Food & Wine! And Higgins! And A.D. Miles! Love them all. Only thing that could have made it better would have been if The Roots were there.

The dishes presented looked pretty good overall. I think the win could have gone either way. Everyone was impressed with Antonia's beef tongue. (Text beeftongue to 27286 to get a special ringtone FREE!)  I was kind of floored by how everyone was treating beef tongue like it's some exotic meat. I grew up on it, and honestly I guess I never realy realized what it was, but my mom would literally put the whole sliced tongue on the table. You can pretty much go to any "Kosher-style" deli, and get some. It's very flavorful.

It looked like the final decision was really between Angelo's apparently innovate flavor combinations and Carla's chicken pot pie. Our judging tends to go towards the simple dishes made perfectly, but I really thought maybe Angelo could've taken this. But then again, Jimmy was on a quest for love, and whose recipes always include a few heaping spoonfuls of the good stuff? Carla's! G-d, I can't even imagine how awesome Carla will be on Fallon. They're both such happy people, I honestly think the studio might implode from allt heir positive energy! Don't forget to tune in on Thursday to watch her segment!

That all being said, I really want to try Angelo's dish. Fortunately he just opened his new sandwich shop pretty close to my apartment, so maybe I can beg him to make it for me.Unfortunately, Fabio, Dale, and Tiffany didn't fare so well. I realy, really thought Tiffany was going to go because it seemed she just didn't make the right dish. Dale could've also just as easily gone home for overseasoned food. Although all the judges thought the whole dish was too salty, I still want to try it. I love Philly cheesesteaks and I love pretzel rolls. My best friend loves them so much in fact that she had them as her dinner rolls at her wedding, and they were delicious! (But salty.)

Ultimately, Fabio went home. As i write this, I'm dreading the fan reaction to this elimination. Talk about Fan Favorite! I can't think of a better example of how un-rigged this show is. (It's a word.) What producer in their right mind would get rid of Fabio?! Anyway, his booger (burger) was dry. Don't worry, Fabio, I used to call burgers boogers too (well, when i was in 1st grade.) I don't think Fabio's idea of using different meats was a bad one, and honestly who doesn't like meatloaf?! I wonder what would have happened had he not made that apparently horrific cheese sauce. I'm sure Fabio will be happy to return to his turtle... and the rest of his family. This episode really hit me with how close this competition is becoming, that anyone can really go home at any time. No one is safe. Not even Angry Dale.

So although I'm sure many of you are very upset over Fabio's elimination, hopefully the rest of the episode put a smile on your face. Tell me your favorite moments! And tell me where/what you've been eating. Until next week, Happy Noshing!

P.S. That blue mesh shirt of Angelo's is for real. One of my colleagues saw him on the streets of NYC wearing it, and texted me about it. When it came up on this week's episode, I called her into my office immediately to confirm it was the same one. It is!

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

So she's going to take more time shopping at Whole Foods -- and ask for the best of Melissa's basket and Adam's shrimp.

Bravotv.com: Let's dive right in. How did it feel to go shopping?
Gail Simmons: Shopping at Whole Foods was fantastic and hilarious. It made us realize that you need to be strategic, which was the point of the exercise for us. They gave us 30 minutes, but we took a little longer. We didn't let the producers push us around! We’re not contestants and we weren't going to stand for it! So, you realize how little time you have, and how big Whole Foods can be. You spend a lot of time running around.

 

My strategy with my pantry was to get a lot of fresh, delicious food that you can cook in lots of different ways. A good balance of proteins, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, fresh herbs, grains. But I didn't want to get too much. Everyone has different strategies; Padma got a ton of different ingredients. Tom's pantry was very pared down. Richard and I were somewhere in the middle.

 

Bravotv.com: Let's start by talking about the two dishes that came from your pantry?
GS: Katsuji and Melissa. They used the same protein, but their dishes were very different. They both used shrimp which one of the proteins that I bought. I bought something else too, something that I know has given people trouble in the past (which is why I specifically chose it) -- chicken wings. And I really wanted people to use them. Instead, they chose the easy way out because shrimps cook quickly.

Melissa's used a lot of fresh vegetables, which I was hoping she would: dill, mint, artichoke. I was so excited about all of it. I think it was beautifully done, a lovely salad with that little shrimp on top with spiced yogurt. But it was just a salad with a quick-cooking seafood. It was so similar to what she had done in Restaurant Wars when she made a scallop with grapefruit salad. I believe she could have done so much more. Melissa keeps saying she wanted to focus on her knife skills, and, of course, your knife skills have to be precise. But I need to see more than just knife skills. I want to see cooking skills, I want to see roasting skills, braising skills. I want to see her hands get a little dirtier and her dishes not be as superficial. It was a light, lovely dish. I was happy to eat it for lunch. But when you're competing against six other really talented chefs, we all want to see a little more depth. Katsuji on the other hand went big. He used his ingredients in a really powerful way. The potato salad, the poached shrimp had bold seasoning and I loved how they went together. It was a great dish. It may not have been the best of the day, but I was actually really happy with what he chose to make.

 

Bravotv.com: So for the rest, let's talk about who was on top and who was on bottom.

GS: At the top there was Gregory who really was going for Padma's heart there. He did great with his coconut milk curry. A really balanced, powerful dish. But it's something we’ve seen from Gregory many times in the past. In fact, in the first challenge he made a similar spicy curry dish with chicken. As much as we thought it was a delicious bowl of food, it was so typical of what we expect from Gregory. George's food was really exciting for us. This was my first time tasting his food and meeting him on Top Chef. He did a great job. The kebab was moist, seasoned really well, and the lentils were beautiful too. My only small issue with the dish is I couldn't understand why he separated the lentils from the kebab in two separate dishes. Why not put lentils on the plate and the kebab right on top, with a dollop of the yogurt? It seemed a little bit disconnected to me. But all-in-all, a really strong dish. Doug had the winning dish of the night. He used Richard's crazy pantry in a way that I thought was smart, clear-cut, and creative. The chorizo and mussels and peppers, just how Tom said, go together well, as do the cauliflower and the garlic. There was sweetness, there was spice, it was light and fresh but had a soulful, rustic flavor we all loved. You could see use of technique. On the bottom were dishes that tried to stretch and didn’t come through. Mei did a great job overall, except her lamb was undercooked. You want lamb medium, medium rare, but the center of that meat was raw to the point where the texture was chewy and almost cold. It would have been better if she had been able to cook it five minutes longer. We talked about Melissa's mistakes already, which also landed her on the bottom. I totally applaud Adam for trying to make a quick-flash marinade. He's been in the middle for so long and he thought "I gotta go big or I gotta go home." He tried to go big and unfortunately, he went home because of that technique. I get the idea of what he was doing, I don't doubt that it could've been successful if it were perhaps done in a different setting, with a little more control. But the flash marinade of his shrimp did not cook it as needed. It was still grey, it was still raw, and the texture of raw shrimp is not appealing. It's squeaky, it's squishy, and it becomes sort of mushy. We wanted it firm and cooked through. It's not like fish that you can eat sashimi-style Unfortunately Adam's hard work, his big risk sent him home.

I will miss him. I think he's an incredibly articulate, clever chef. I think he has an extraordinary career ahead of him. I'm excited to see him back in New York City. I can't wait to eat his food again. Also I want to say of this entire episode that was it was thrilling to see our superfans in the kitchen. We've never let people come into the kitchen in that way before, even though people ask us all the time. It brought so much good energy to have basically a live audience with us for the day. Everyone was so psyched. It was amazing to be around people who really love the show, to let them eat food from our talented chefs. SO much fun!